It’s the background noise of late summer, the continuous sound of dog-day cicadas.
These are the annual cicadas that come out this time of year, not the 17-year variety that emerged in the Northeast US this summer (the last time here was 2007), but there are alot of them, and they seem to be everywhere!
Maybe you think they are just big, clumsy bugs, kind of creepy with their red eyes and all. Children seem to love them, anyway.
Why should we care about cicadas?
Just think how their lives lead up to this awkward flight and noise. They live for a few afternoons, evenings in the humid air. Maybe 5-6 weeks, that’s it. Then, all crying done, only the shells remain. And their bodies, flightless now, those wings like fragile lace.
You can find out more about cicadas online, if you are curious about their entomology. Did you know they can be found all over the world?
Cicadas have also inspired art and poetry. This excellent article explores the cicada in Asian art and folklore.
In ancient China the cicada was seen as a symbol of rebirth, much like the Egyptian scarabs. Many jade carvings of cicadas have been found among funereal offerings. Here are some examples in the Art Institute’s collection.
In addition to rebirth, other meanings have been suggested—-transformation, abundance, harvest—seasonal associations of late summer, early fall.
In Japan, the sound of the cicadas is called semi shigure –“cicada rain” — a shower of sound, like heavy rain falling. There is even a taiko drum group by that name.
In the Buddhist sense, cicadas are seen as an example of the impermanence of this world. There is sadness, humor and beauty, too.
Issa wrote many haiku about them. Here is one example–
“Look at the floating world!
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